When Is the Right Time to Buy a New Mac?

An Apple Store in Adelaide, Australia.ymgerman / Shutterstock

Apple tends to keep pace with its own drum when it comes to new and updated product versions. You expect a new iPhone in October, but what about the company’s less “popular” products, like the iMac or the Mac mini?

Is there a better time to buy a new Mac? Well, yes and no.

When can you get the most out of your money?

The worst time to buy a new iPhone is (usually) in late August or early September because Apple tends to release a new iPhone every year for the same price. This means you can get a newer, more “future-proof” iPhone at no additional cost if you wait until October.

However, other Apple products do not follow the exact same rigid version model. While the company tends to release major updates once every few years for product lines like MacBook and iMac, small incremental hardware bumps are rarely announced with the same fanfare.

An Apple iMac.Apple

While these versions are less predictable, they are still trending. Incremental updates tend to follow new iterations of Intel CPUs or AMD GPUs; however, these are also at the mercy of Apple’s supply chain. Aside from educated guesses, leaks and rumors, only Apple knows when the next version is on its way.

Fortunately, you can still make informed purchasing decisions and get your money’s worth. You can do this by analyzing Apple’s existing hardware trends.

MacRumors Buyer’s Guide

the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide is a complete tool for assessing whether you should buy a new Apple product now. The tool shows how far we are in the current product cycle, as well as the average length of the product cycle (in days), and the averages of previous updates.

An overview of Apple products in the MacRumors Buyer's Guide.

As if that weren’t helpful enough, the tool even provides tips like “Do not buy” for products nearing the end of their current cycle, or “Buy now” for recently updated material. Because the blog focuses on Apple rumors, they also play a role in deciding if it’s the right time to buy.

The buyer’s guide will also identify exceptions in existing product lines. For example, when Apple released a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in November 2019, the 13-inch model was not updated. For example, the Buyer’s Guide has listed a “Caution” warning next to the MacBook Pro, advising consumers that only the 16-inch model has been updated recently.

Some product lines are more predictable than others. Apple used to let certain product lines stagnate, like the unfortunate Mac Pro “recycling bin” and the seemingly dormant Mac Mini. In these cases, however, you can probably make a decision based on your own point of view.

The MacRumors Buying Guide page for a 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Don’t want to pay for a machine that hasn’t been updated in over a year? It’s your call. Apple rarely cuts products without updating or completely replacing the line. If you don’t want to pay Apple prices for already “outdated” hardware, a look at the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide is essential!

Do you need a new Mac?

Not everyone has the luxury of postponing an upgrade. If you are replacing a product that is dead or is showing signs of hardware failure, you may not be able to wait six months for the next hardware update. If you need a working Mac to do your job, even a week is too long to wait.

In these cases, the Buyer’s Guide is less important. If you’re buying a basic Mac product, like an iMac, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, you’re unlikely to buy hardware older than a year. Apple updates these lines fairly regularly with new processors, larger SSDs, and faster RAM.

You can always consult the Buyer’s Guide to make a more informed decision, but, in the end, your immediate needs and budget must come first.

RELATED: 8 warning signs your Mac might have a problem (and how to fix it)

Refurbished Macs Are Another Reason To Wait

Some people only buy refurbished Macs Apple’s program. You can usually save between 15 and 25% on the price of a brand new product if you buy a refurbished one. They include the usual warranty and are eligible for Apple Care and Apple certified to be as good as new.

The renovated Apple Mac Store.

According to MacRumors, you can expect a three- or four-month wait before refurbished products begin to appear after their initial release. However, a Reddit thread from 2016 suggests eight to 12 months is more accurate. We have noticed that refurbished models tend to appear first in the United States, but later in places like Australia and New Zealand.

If you want to buy a refurbished product, the Buyer’s Guide is a useful resource. Models near the end of their product cycles may be available at reduced prices on Apple’s refurbished Mac store. It could even be the same updated products that Apple sells at high prices.

It is more likely that you will see material that is one or two years old. Buying a refurbished model requires a little more attention on your part, as Apple lists recent models as well as obsolete ones. You can filter by model and year to make it easier, but don’t expect the most recent renovations to drag on.

If you have your eyes on a particular model of Mac, Refurb Tracker allows you to configure alerts when new stock becomes available. Since refurbished Macs are usually in short supply, and demand Apple products on sale is high, Refurb Tracker could give you an edge if you can afford to wait.

Refurbished Macs are sold “as is” with no options for the processor, SSD storage, or RAM. You will find all kinds of models with a variety of specifications, depending on the options chosen by the original owner. It’s a bit of a lottery, so be prepared to compromise in some cases or be pleasantly surprised in others.

The Bottom Line

If you need a Mac, you should buy a Mac. Having a newer, updated model doesn’t make your existing Mac less capable. You could get more computers for your money if you buy at the start of a product cycle. However, you should not let this dominate your decision if you desperately need a new machine.

When you buy Apple, you already know that you’re going to pay a premium. If you really want to save money, however, it’s worth browsing through some refurbished models that include a full Apple warranty.

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